Monday 5 December 2016

Skellig Michael set for 'blaze of silver-screen glory' - New York Times

The (Tourism) Force Awakens

Published 02/12/2015 | 11:39

Skellig Michael. Photo: Deposit
Skellig Michael. Photo: Deposit
JJ Abrams outside the Butler Arms Hotel in Waterville, County Kerry where he has been staying while filming for the new Star Wars: Episode VII. Picture by Justin Kernoghan
Darth invader: A Star Wars fan poses in front of the Skelligs Rocks near Portmagee in Co Kerry. Picture by Don MacMonagle
A still shot from the new Star Wars film, 'The Force Awakens', which is to be released next month

The New York Times is the latest star to visit an increasingly illustrious rock 13km off the Kerry coast.

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Skellig Michael, believed to feature in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens', which is set for release on December 18, was visited for a story published this week.

The Unesco world heritage site is "one of the country's most mystical places", writes Lucinda Hahn, who took the 50-minute boat ride and climbed 618 "fearsome" steps for a travel feature entitled 'Star Wars Fever Extends to an Ancient Irish Island'.

"There was something mournful and beautiful about it all: the six beehive-shaped monastic cells huddled together, two boat-shaped oratories, as well as crude stone crosses, serving as grave markers, and the ruins of a medieval church."

Skellig Michael, punching out of the Atlantic Ocean some 13km off the Kerry coast, has been catapulted into the media spotlight after scenes for the forthcoming Star Wars movies were filmed there over the past two summers.

Reports have suggested that the rock could feature as Luke Skywalker's refuge in exile - with actor Mark Hamill (below) spotted pulling pints in Portmagee this September.

The shoots have been highly secretive, however - with locals signing non-disclosure agreements and crew remaining tight-lipped - and in reality, it is unknown how much (if any) of the Skellig footage will appear in the final cut this December.

Nevertheless, the force appears to be with Tourism Ireland.

This week, it announced plans to leverage "possibly the most highly-anticipated movie of all time" in its marketing plans for 2016.

"Skellig Michael is one of the very few 'real world' locations to feature in the movie," it said, announcing plans to launch a dedicated Star Wars campaign in January.

Not everyone has welcomed J.J. Abrams and his Jedi knights, of course.

Concerns have been expressed as to the ecological consequences and long-term impact both of the film production and any potential increase in visitors over time.

Though the Skelligs have long been an iconic image of Ireland, their remote location and difficulty to access (just 13 local boatmen have licenses to make the weather-dependent trip) has meant relatively few visitors actually make landfall.

"But now," the New York Times trumpets, "its relative obscurity seems about to end in a blaze of silver-screen glory."

Reaching the summit of the rock and peering out over the Atlantic, Hahn is moved to quote another famous visitor: George Bernard Shaw.

“I hardly feel real again… I tell you, the thing does not belong to any world that you and I have lived and worked in: It is part of our dream world.”

Read the New York Times story here.

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